RACHAEL Beck acts to make her audience feel they are not alone and it would be difficult to find a greater reason to do that than with a production about mental illness.
The actress and singer will make her debut for Black Swan State Theatre Company (BSSTC) this month in the Tony Award-winning rock musical Next to Normal, which examines a slice of family life where mother Diana (Beck) has bipolar disorder.
“It’s funny and dark, it’s very emotional, it’s about human frailty and about coping with those situations, battling with the unknown,” Beck said.
“People with mental illnesses don’t know what’s going to be presented day after day and what works one day in terms of medication, may not work the next day, week or month.
“It brings to light all those things and the ripples of how it affects family and people who surround them.
“The people who support and care for those with mental illness, whether it’s schizophrenia, bipolar, melancholic depression or whatever, they need to be supported and understood as well.”
Beck said she had prepared for the role through research with the Black Dog Institute, but like many working on the show, had also seen it touch family and close friends.
“And as morbid as the production sounds, it also looks at the humorous side as well,” she said.
“I’m very aware that I don’t want people to think we’re being disrespectful but also to know that laughter is one of the coping devices, making things light when things are hard.
“I love that Black Swan have been brave enough to take this onboard; it’s definitely time to put this out, it certainly ran for years and years on Broadway and now it’s time for Perth to see it.”
The production has a broad cross-section of music from rock and folk to jazz and classical, and despite this being Beck’s first BSSTC production, she is no stranger to cast members Brendan Hanson and Michael Cormick.
“I did Singing in the Rain and Les Miserables with Brendan, and Michael was my beast in Beauty and the Beast,” she said.
“Michael’s my best friend and plays my psychologist in this, although I think usually I’m his.
“He’s the godfather of my children and we’re living together in Perth while working on this, so it’ll be great to have that support going home after the show in an emotional mess.”
What: Next to Normal
Where: Heath Ledger Theatre
When: November 7 to 22